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Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence Day Weekend: Michigan Coalition Seeks Freedom to Work

Terry Bowman, Ypsilanti, a United Auto Workers Local 898 member, was among union members and others who announced formation of the Michigan Freedom to Work coalition during a noon news conference at the state Capitol in Lansing. Coalition members also held news conferences in Escanaba, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Flint, during which they unveiled the group’s new website – -- constructed by coalition volunteers.

“As we prepare to celebrate our country’s freedom, we’re announcing a new coalition of Americans fighting for freedom here in Michigan, the freedom to hold a job whether we belong or give money to a union or not,” Bowman said. “The Michigan Freedom to Work coalition believes all employees should be free to join and financially support a labor union. We believe employees should be equally free not to join or financially support a union, without fear of discrimination or penalty either way.”

Stacy Swimp, Saginaw, chairman of an African-American legacy organization, said the question is “a 21st Century civil rights issue.” “We call on the legislature and Gov. Snyder to as quickly as possible pass a state civil rights law guaranteeing every Michigan employee’s freedom to choose, by prohibiting requirements that any employee be forced to join or financially support a union as a condition of employment,” Swimp said. “Other civil rights laws already protect us from being discriminated against or fired on the basis of membership or non-membership in a certain race or religion. This new civil rights law should equally protect us from being discriminated against or fired based on membership or non-membership in -- or financial support or nonsupport of – a private labor organization.”

Swimp also noted that “while the only people in Lansing who have enough votes to stop Michigan from protecting employee freedom are Republicans, we’re encouraged that Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign this legislation into law.”

Also speaking was University of Michigan student Melinda Day, Ann Arbor, a former forced member of the Graduate Employees Organization, a campus affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. Day was forced to pay dues even though, as a student, she was not covered by the union’s contract. “Families in this state desperately need jobs, and protecting employee freedom is the most important thing we can do to create and aract new jobs to Michigan," Day said. “Such laws are a major factor in where new plants are located, and in the last decade, the states that protect employee freedom led the nation in creating new private sector jobs, while states that allow job discrimination based on forced unionism lost millions of jobs. Michigan was the biggest job loser, losing nearly 700,000 jobs.“

Day noted that according to the 2010 U.S. Census, two-thirds of the states that protect employee freedom have higher per capita income than in Michigan, and that over the past 50 years, according to government statistics, income has grown faster in all of those states than in Michigan.

Coalition members said recent polling indicates they speak for a majority of Michigan voters. EPIC/MRA, a Lansing pollster, in May found that passing a law to protect employee freedom regarding union affiliation is favored by over 80 percent of Republicans, half of all independents, and a third of all Democrats in Michigan. The same poll found that one-third of union members and over 40 percent of union households support such a law.


Linda said...

Thank you for noticing our efforts and for this post!

Karen iacovelli said...

Great info..thanks! The civil rights angle has very strong legs...